Milling Soapstone in Virginia
Jeff Rasnake of Rockfish, Virginia purchased a PCNC 1100 from Tormach just over three years ago. Working full time as a Manufacturing Engineer in the Maritime Navigation Industry, Rasnake's evenings are spent in his home machine shop.
With a metal machining background that began in a vocational tech school metal trades class, Rasnake’s career started in 1977. After graduating, Rasnake went to work for a small manufacturing company where he gained real real-world experience running manual mills, lathes, cam-controlled turret lathes and screw machines in the machine shop.
He then enlisted with the United States Navy as a Machinery Repairman. “In the Navy, I served on board two different ships, machining parts for pumps, motors, valves and whatever else broke down while in port and underway,” he said. “After four years of service, I was hired as a machinist in a shop that manufactured parts for ships.”
After fifteen years in the shop, Rasnake received an invitation to transfer over to the Manufacturing Engineering department, where he works today. “Today I'm doing process engineering work supporting the machine shop to include CNC programming, he explained. “I've never had an office job as a career goal, but it is working out well.”
Just over three years ago, Rasnake was in a position to purchase a Series II Tormach PCNC 1100 machining center. “It's hard to describe what I machine on my PCNC 1100,” he said. “I use it for everything; I've done engraving in wood and brass for plaques and I've machined a variety of materials from plastics to stainless steels and zirconium. I've machined parts for an Alfa Romero car from stainless, using all three axes simultaneously with ball mills. I've made custom parts for Harley Davidson motorcycles, antique cars including a unique grille badge for a local car club, parts for a junior dragster, airplane tie-downs and much more,” Rasnake continued. “I've even made screw-in replica dummy tips for MK4 folding fin rockets that were for a local Vietnam Veterans Museum.”
Rasnake purchased a seat of Mastercam to program the PCNC 1100. “Mastercam offers a raster to vector converter that I use to convert images to geometry,” he said. “This is how I program the machine to engrave pictures in the various materials. The software is what makes the Tormach come to life” he added. “It is a fully capable machine and I'm continually amazed by with its functionality”.
Featured on the Tormach blog and in previous Customer Showcase stories (read them below), Rasnake's latest PCNC projects include milling and engraving on soapstone, a soft rock found locally in Virginia. “Soapstone is a local natural resource here in Virginia and I've discovered it machines really well. I started making gifts for friends and family, the soapstone milling and engraving has gotten really popular.”
To date Rasnake has made house numbers, plaques with various pictures and wording, candle holders and at least one pet grave marker out of soapstone. “I can make clocks and just about anything else you can imagine. I use a local soapstone company for materials; one day I'd like to start a business just cutting soapstone.”
“I have also made parts for air rifles (barrel bands). Next week, I'm planning on engraving soapstone benches for the Alberene Soapstone Company. The benches will end up in local parks and such.”
Rasnake met up with the Tormach team at the Cabin Fever Expo in York, Pennsylvania this past January. “I was really impressed with the automatic tool changer and have a real interest in upgrading to get one for my machine, he said. “The folks at Tormach are good people and the sky's the limit with PCNC. I've done some really impressive work with my machine; stand-by because you never know what's next.”
A website is on Rasnake's project list. In the mean time, feel free to email him at email@example.com.